Here are some verses you probably already have memorized:
“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT.
I believe joy is a mindset.
And I believe I’ve missed it many times.
The apostle Paul encourages us ALWAYS to be joyful, to constantly pray, to exude thankfulness even in the darkest of times. If you want to know God’s will, these difficult (but joyful sounding) mandates have God’s continual stamp of approval.
Joy comes from Jesus, a constant, fixed-yet-dynamic Savior. The more we are knitted with Him, the more we pursue Him, the more we find our satisfaction and validation in Him, the more we will burst with joy.
Not to say we can’t be real. (You know how real I’ve been in this space). The psalms are indications that we can absolutely tell it like it is. But I don’t believe we need to wallow there forever. Weeping may come for a night, but joy DOES come in the morning (or the mourning!). (See Psalm 30:5). The key is to let it in.
Once the Lord whispered to me, “Mary you can entrust Me with your sorrow, but can you entrust me with joy?” I believe God wants to pour out His elaborate joy on us, but we have become so accustomed to welcoming sadness that joy feel wayyyyyy out of our comfort zone. We know how to live in the dredges; it’s scary to live with an abundance mindset.
Let’s look at the differences:
Debbie (or Donald!) Downer would say: that person betrayed me.
Joy would say: Because that person hurt me, I am more apt to run to Jesus in prayer for her, for me.
Debbie Downer would say: I will never succeed at this dream.
Joy would say: In my weakness, I’ll place this dream at the feet of Jesus and let it go. It’ll be an adventure to see what happens next.
Debbie Downer would say: I am a failure.
Joy would say: I failed at this thing, but it doesn’t mean I’m a failure. Because of Jesus, I am loved and worthy and set free.
Debbie Downer would say: This illness will never improve.
Joy would say: I don’t know whether or not this illness will leave or stay, but I can ask God to teach me more about His empathetic ways through this trial, and I can always, always grow closer to Him through my suffering.
Debbie Downer would say: The money worries are only mounting.
Joy would say: God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Even if I went bankrupt, I would still have God with me, which is always better than things. Besides, this financial worry increases my reliance on God, and it makes me more empathetic toward those with money struggles.
Debbie Downer would say: This situation is unfair. I was misunderstood and taken advantage of.
Joy would say: It hurts to be misunderstood and taken advantage of, but in this painful place, I have an ally. Jesus absolutely understands what it’s like to be misunderstood and taken advantage of.
Debbie Downer would say: I am utterly alone.
Joy would say: My relationships may have faded, and it makes me very sad, but I will always have Jesus with me. It is a fixed truth I can rely on.
Oh how I resemble dear Debbie Downer!
But today, as I write this, I’m dethroning her and sticking JOY in her place.
10 Ways to Dethrone Debbie or Donald Downer:
1. Memorize 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
2. Get in the habit of stepping back, then asking, “What can I see about this situation that is the exact opposite of the way I’m perceiving it?”
3. Ask God to remind you when you’re walking down the downer path. Be brave to share your bent toward negativity with a friend who will pray for you and ask you occasionally how you’re doing in this battle.
4. Take a walk. Changing your place and getting outside (and the act of walking) helps re-set you.
5. Grab a piece of paper and write down ten things you are thankful for.
6. Find someone who has a difficult situation and tangibly help THEM. (Write a card, email, send a gift, say a word of encouragement.)
7. Turn on your favorite worship song and sing louder than Debbie Downer!
8. Draw a picture of what your life would look like if joy was at the center.
9. Get on your knees and pray, asking God to lift the weight of disappointment from you.
10. Make cookies, then give some away.
I hope these help. You’re certainly seeing into the depths of Mary as I write this, and that’s okay. We’re all works in progress, right? None of us have arrived at Christian perfection. And if we think we have, we’re in danger of not needing Jesus. It’s our neediness that causes us to run to Christ, to ask for his help, so please don’t despise it. It’s a means He uses to change our lives.
Mind if I pray for you?
Jesus, be with my blog-reading friend in their current discouragement. Lift outlooks. Lift worry. Lift us above what plagues us. Renew joy that’s been forgotten. Be uniquely amazing in our lives. Help us to choose joy, not in a flippant fake way, but as a genuine spiritual practice. Amen.
By the way:
I’m so pleased to announce that my first novel, Watching the Tree Limbs is now in AUDIO BOOK form. And you can get it free if you sign up for an Audible account. Find out more here:
Actress Robin Gerke did an amazing job at this. Take it on your next road trip and fill over ten hours with the power of story. This novel is about God’s redemptive hand in an abused girl’s life. It’s a coming of age story combined with page-turning mystery.